V3N4: May 1997
Volume 3 Number 4
Table of Contents
I'm interested in art that makes a statement about something. I'm interested in artists who are in command of their materials.
-- Elizabeth Ferrer
Kincaid struggles for a rhythm but never falls into a satisfying cadence. Although she hits some very good notes, she needs to stay with her characters and write a song.
From its humble beginnings in the parking lot behind Wiggy's Liquor store on West Sixth Street, the Jazz Fest has grown to be a true family oriented multidisciplnary arts fair featuring dance and spoken word performances, activities for kids, music workshops, art sales, and good things to eat and drink.
In the spirit of Austin's election season, Austin Downtown Arts decided to question our potential City Council members and our potential might-be Mayors and discover their views on the subject of the Arts and Downtown.
Just before Van Cliburn won the first Tchaikovsky competition in 1958, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in the protracted, tiresome endgame of World War II: the Cold War.
in something short of two and one-half weeks we put together, arguably, one of the best jazz shows to come through Austin this year.
It's difficult to get through the rough spots on this journey I call life.
Woman by Michele Walker
A woman is a series of ironic dualities,
complexities, wishes and individualities.
She timidly walks with a boldness all her own
to take on the future, scared of the unknown.
She searches for her ruler which only she can rule;
Determined in strength for a chance to be weak.
Shaping and molding comes from inner steel,
by can easily crack by the slightest abrasion.
Depending on independence she learns the hard way,
vulnerability, sacrifice and self-assessing
There is not a creature so selfless in love,
but a woman.
However, she endures to reach for the selfish goal of love.
Ask her yourself, she'll give the answer,
which no one knows to be true, not even her.
Her entirety is a constant state of flux,
this metamorphosis so continual
that there is no beginning or end.
The battle lies between emotion and readon,
the age-old war between nature and nurture.
AMOA Hires New Director by Carolyn Hicok
Elizabeth Ferrer recently took time out of one of her busy days in New York to speak with us, and said, "I look forward to coming to Austin and getting to know the visual arts of the community." And we look forward to having her here. She brings with her a lifelong love of the visual arts and her special expertise in Mexican art that was born of a vision of inclusion. Growing up in East Los Angeles in the '60s, Ferrer realized that there was a body of Latin-American art tied to the Civil Rights Movement that was not being documented or recognized. Since then she has built an impressive body of work as a curator and author that reflects that passion and vision she will bring as the new director of the Austin Museum of Art.
Ferrer comes to Austin from the Americas Society in New York, which has a broad interdisciplinary focus on providing a forum for the arts of all cultures of the Western Hemisphere. As the visual arts director and curator of the Art Gallery there, she was responsible for mounting several exhibitions a year, some of which toured nationally and internationally. Holland Cotter of the New York Times News Service said of her exhibit Contemporary Art of the Dominican Republic, "The contemporary work looks far better -- fresher, more original, more inventive than its modernist counterpart [mounted by Edward Sullivan and displayed in the adjoining Spanish Institute section], which bears a heavy debt to European and American models. But how much this impression has to do with the quality of the work itself and how much with the context in which it is seen is one of many questions the show raises."
Others among Ferrer's critics also seem to see this conceptual awareness of art as not only a reflection but also a mirror -- the artistic creation not only as the reflection of the artist and his environment, but the mirror into which the audience looks to see and define itself. Alex Waterhouse-Hayward says of her book A Shadow Born of Earth: New Photography in Mexico, "It is about the blurring of Mexico's border with the United States, the mutual invasion of each country's culture. It is about Coca-Cola in the Zocalo and about a Dia de los Muertos perversely becoming a Mixtec Halloween in Gilroy, California. But it's not all about the future negative effects of free trade. When Cortez conquered Mexico, and churches were built on pyramids with altars from the rubble of the fallen Aztec gods, the gods themselves burrowed into the skin of the conquered while the Spaniards themselves adopted a dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe."
Ferrer said she didn't agree with that characterization of the book as a whole: "The majority of the photographers in that book dealt with nontraditional forms of photography. I did that show because I love photography and because I wanted to point out that there was an enormous wealth of nontraditional photography that has occurred in Mexico since the 1920s, and since the 1980s has become an important aspect of photography there. There were a couple of photographers in the show who were very interested in documenting Mexican people and traditions moving North -- what happens when Mexicans live on the border and in the US; how they form their own traditions; and how they integrate popular culture from the US into their own way of thinking."
On mounting the Dominican exhibition, of which Cotter also said "When one moves on to the selection of contemporary work at the Americas Society, organized by Elizabeth Ferrer, the show seems to change worlds. A homogenizing modernism is replaced by eclectic trans-Atlantic vanguard styles and media that have developed since the politically charged '60s. And a more sharpened effort to define 'Dominican-ness' in art comes to the fore," Ferrer describes her creative process: "I'm always driven by the quality of the work. I'm interested in art that makes a statement about something. I'm interested in artists who are in command of their materials. The Dominican show was interesting because that was a specific project -- we were trying to show for the first time Dominican work in the United States. I didn't go to Santa Domingo where most of the artists lived because it wasn't an agenda to do a show about "Dominicanness," but as I began to meet artists, I found that for me at least the art work did deal with that theme. The younger artists were trained by painters working with much more abstract issues, and they turned away from that and turned inside themselves and their own culture."
Her creative portfolio contains several books, including A Shadow Born of Earth: New Photography in Mexico, Latin American Artists of the 20th Century, Exposition Retrospective of Miguel Rios, House of Miracles, and Modern and Contemporary Art of the Dominican Republic. She has written articles for many publications, including ARTnews, Nueva Luz, History of Photography, Review: Latin American Literature and Arts, and Artes de Mexico.
Thomas Padon, director of exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts in New York cites her as one of the authorities on Latin American art. Ferrer explains how she became the It-Girl, "It comes from years and years of looking at art. It becomes a process when I'm looking at a piece of art or an artist's body of art for the first time. I have a bank of information with which I'm able to compare it to a thousand different things, and I immediately know if the work is derivative of another artist or if it's a powerful original statement. It comes from developing one's eye, formally and intellectually, based primarily on looking but also on reading and knowing the history of art and the history of culture. If you have a background in art history and you've looked at art extensively, you're able to contextualize it more, and understand what tradition the work is coming out of and what connection it's making with other artists. That is not to say that there's an absolute standard of quality. I think one of the challenges of being a curator in the visual arts today is that those absolute ideas of quality that might have existed in earlier periods do not exist anymore, and that has a lot to do with the growing diversity in the art field and the fact that artists are working with so many different styles all at once. There's no one artistic style that defines our age. There's always going to be a subjective factor that speaks to me, or that's important to me, but I have to have confidence that it's also art that I want to bring to the public."
How, then, was Austin able to lure away this Clara Bowe from New York where she is receiving so much recognition and acclamation of her work? "[New York] is the cultural center of the country; artists come to New York from all over the world to work, and there's an incredible wealth of museums and galleries. On the other hand, there is a lot of important art being made everywhere in the United States, and I think there needs to be good museums everywhere. I saw in Austin an opportunity to really make a difference both in terms of my own career, because I'll be moving into a museum directorship, and that's been a long-term goal; and secondly because much work needs to be done with the visual arts in Austin. I felt I really fit in with the institution because of its focus on multiculturalism and because of the geographic scope the museum covers, which is the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. So I felt I could bring a lot with my expertise to bear on this institution. And finally, I was very excited by the fact that the museum plans to build a much larger permanent institution in downtown Austin, and I'm glad to be part of that process."
Ferrer is excited about the possibilities of being in Texas for her personal career as a cataloger of Mexican art. "I think it's going to be interesting for me because I'm in New York right now, and New York is this incredible mish-mash of every culture imaginable. What I think is different about Texas is its strong Mexican presence, and I think that really palpable mix is in a certain sense very evident there. I do want to pay attention to the fact that we are close to the border of another country, and that there is on the one hand an important Chicano tradition and a Chicano art history that I don't think has been paid enough attention to, and then there is also the proximity of Mexico and Mexican culture. So that will certainly be an aspect of my work, but also I'm interested in showing the diversity of traditions in the United States."
She also expressed a zeal for what becoming the director of the Austin Museum of Arts at this critical point in its development will give her to work with professionally. The museum has recently opened its downtown division at 823 Congress, quadrupling its exhibition space, with plans by 2001 for a permanent site on 3rd Street. "The museum is at a very important time in its history. The museum made the move [downtown] because it wanted very much to have a downtown presence in a location that would be more accessible to Austinites. What we now need to do is to create a significant artistic program that will bring that audience. This space is a very important stepping stone, a proving-ground for the institution, and we have to demonstrate that we have the ability to present programming of the quality that will be needed to sustain this much larger institution in the future. I see the next few years as critical in terms of demonstrating the quality of the museum, in pointing the museum's direction into the next century, and in providing some indication of the important institution the museum will be when in its permanent building."
The museum has been criticized in the past by Latino artists for cultural elitism, and by some, such as the Houston Art Guys, for censorship. Ferrer defends the record of representation of the museum, and illuminates how she will deal with such issues as director. "I didn't see the Art Guys show, but I know a little bit about it, and I think the incident was an unfortunate situation where the museum was caught by surprise. Basically I am going to have to be responsible for every show. For every exhibition that we do, we're going to be well aware of what we're doing and why we're doing it, and then we can stand up for our decisions. We may be criticized for them, but we can't be criticized because we were caught by surprise or because we weren't quite sure of what we were doing. I want to underscore that I do want to show adventurous art and challenging art. I've looked at the history of exhibitions at the institution, and the museum has actually shown quite a diversity of artists. If you look at the museum's history, that bears it out. At the same time, I think a lot more can be done. One of the things I'm interested in doing, for example, is looking more into the history and roots of Chicano art, which I don't think has really been explored. I want the museum to be driven by quality and a desire to exhibit the plurality of styles and the diversity of artistic expression. Not everybody may like every exhibition we do, but over time we will serve the broad audience in Austin. That's my intention."
Ferrer has plans, general and specific, for the direction of the museum, and elevating it to an institution of national and even international prominence. One of her specific plans is for a room dedicated to new projects by artists, such as the "Projects Room" at the Museum of Modern Art, which Ferrer describes as "an ongoing series of exhibitions by younger artists to present new work -- work that might not necessarily be seen at the museum, and it gives the audience access to some very bright new ideas in art in a broad range of expressions. It also gives younger artists a chance to have their work shown in a museum, and that's very valuable for them. I want to show artists from Austin throughout the US. One of the great things about my background with the Americas Society and in New York is that I've come into contact with an incredible number of artists. I want to bring some of that knowledge to Austin, and introduce a lot of new faces to the art scene, and a lot of new work to the museum."
Ferrer also anticipates exhibitions that will be relevant to Austin's high-tech community. "I'm interested in presenting exhibitions that have relevance for Austin. For example, I think it would be interesting to explore the interaction between art and technology, and how contemporary artists are integrating technology into their work. What's interesting to me in doing shows with broad themes is that we can be very comfortably diverse, and I think a show like that becomes more exciting when you show many different points of view. If we do an exhibition about the environment that includes artists from many different backgrounds, it's a much more valuable approach than, for example, doing a Latino show, or an African-American show. I'd rather work with Latino and African-American artists on an ongoing basis on various projects that we're working on, rather than simply doing exhibitions dedicated to the work of a set group. I see the museum functioning on different levels -- on the one hand it's a museum that will be an important institution for Austin, and I want to get to know artists who are working in Austin and in the area, and secondly we're in the capital, so I want to have an identity with the state and do a few shows that relate to artists in the state of Texas. But ultimately I'd like to see our scope be national, and to some extent international. I don't want this museum to have borders. I want to bring the best art to Austin, regardless of where it's from."
If Ferrer's drive and extensive experience are any indication of the good things to come for the Austin visual arts scene, Austinites can look forward to a companion for the prominence of its live music scene. "First what I want to do is review ideas with the staff when I come on-board in July, look at what has been done, and develop some priorities. One thing we need to do is develop more of our own exhibitions. The museum has brought in many exhibitions from other museums in the US, and many of these have been very good. But for the museum to develop its own identity, it needs to be more proactive in terms of curating shows and identifying ideas and individual artists that should be presented in Austin. When you curate your own exhibitions, you have the opportunity to tour them to museums in different parts of the country, and finally by publishing catalogues that can get distributed nationally. I need to underscore that these things take time; none of this happens overnight. You need funding for everything, but I think the differences will become more apparent two or three years down the line."
The Autobiography of My Mother by Elizabeth Hayes
"Know thy self" as a strategy to relate more effectively to others is turned on its head in Jamaica Kincaid's novel The Autobiography of My Mother. Xuela Claudette Richardson's mother dies at the moment of her birth and this "autobiography" is an account of the strategies this isolated woman employs to survive without love. It is, in Xuela's words, "an account of the person I didn't allow myself to become." Instead of seeking connection, Xuela's self-exploration isolates her. She becomes self-contained, like the Carribean island of Dominica that is the setting of this grim story of human relations and "voluptuous blackness."
Lack of love shapes the narrator's life. Her steely father is a government official by virtue of mixed Carib and Scottish heritage. Xuela's mother is of African descent, and these racial distinctions challenge all of the relationships on this "outpost of despair." Xuela's gray-eyed father sends her into various unsatisfactory living conditions. First with his laundress, then as a de facto courtesan to one of his colleges. Although he ensures that she gets an education, she is left on her own to navigate the inevitable trials of coming of age as a woman of color on a colonized island offering few choices. Autobiography taken to an extreme is her escape. Obsession with the minutia of human function allows her to live in the sensations of her skin and not to ask for anything intangible such as love. Xuela decides she will "not allow the full weight of her desire to make a pawn of [her]. She becomes intimate with the sensations and odors of her body and exerts control by gruesomely terminating all of her pregnancies for she knows that she has no love to give. These strategies make a believable albeit unlikeable heroine. Autobiography, regardless of what it reveals, becomes a source of renewal. "The perfume of your own name and your own deeds is intoxicating." Whether it is becoming or not, Xuela decides to be fully who she is given the perimeters of her existence.
"Overtaken by officialdom," Xuela's father, a jailer, uses an opposite strategy by choosing not to reveal to himself or anyone, but "to live forever locked up in an iron cage made of [his] own silence." There are many references to the mask he creates in order to conjure his outward appearance-his disguise. He is cruel and takes advantage of his posistion to become a well-off man who wears "a smile on his lips at all times when he is in public, but is directed inward, not outward."
Kincaid wants us to know that these characters are the vestiges of British colonial rule and this is clear throughout the novel. Unfortunately, Kincaid indulges in a lecture towards the end of the book that weakens the effect of the characterizations. Dense with allusions and repetition, the prose becomes trying at times in its attempt to be poetic. Kincaid struggles for a rhythm but never falls into a satisfying cadence. Although she hits some very good notes, she needs to stay with her characters and write a song.
Clarksville Jazz Festival Preview by Harold McMillan
This June's Clarksville-West End Jazz and Arts Festival marks nine years for Austin's largest event for the jazz community. From its humble beginnings in the parking lot behind Wiggy's Liquor store on West Sixth Street, the Jazz Fest has grown to be a true family oriented multidisciplnary arts fair featuring dance and spoken word performances, activities for kids, music workshops, art sales, and good things to eat and drink. Currently set in downtown's Pease Park for its Saturday-Sunday run, the event now includes events and performances that span a full week, at various Austin locations. This year's run is set for June 8-15.
During the course of the festival's history, major strides have been made to gradually develop the programming, the size of the event, and its reach into the regional market. To be sure, the Clarksville Fest is not Austin's version of the New Orleans Jazz Fest. However, what this festival does do is attempt to conjure up a uniquely Austin version of a a family cultural event that appeals to the sensibilities of locals, while programming acts and actviities that put it on the map as a festival with regional significance. For the last several years the Clarksville Fest has made progress in that direction. With varying degrees of support from local and state arts organizations, the Austin business and tourism community, and the media, The Clarksville Jazz Fest continues to get national and regional attention. The value of the festival, as a drawing card for tourism and local ecomonic activity, however, somehow continues to baffle many of those who stand to benefit the most from its success.
In addition to its legacy of musical firsts, the 1997 Jazz Fest continues to move forward, breaking new ground in its quest for respect as a real player in the Austin festival season. DiverseArts (and in the past River City Bluez), through the Jazz Festival, has welcomed the likes of McCoy Tyner, Ellis Marsalis, James Clay, Jimmy Smith, Charles Neville, Cornell Dupree, Kermit Ruffins and other folks rarely or never before featured in Austin performances. This year the stakes rise again as Waco-born, Dallas-reared, internationally respected young trumpeter Roy Hargrove brings his new Afro-Cubano ensemble Crisol to Austin for a three day residency. In fact, Austin is the first stop in their international festival tour to support the June Verve release of Habana, the group's first CD. From Austin, they head out to headline at the Hollywood Bowl.
Local Government and the Arts by Manuel Gonzales
In the spirit of Austin's election season, during which Austinites will pound their way to the polls and voting booths and decide who should be Mayor and what not, Austin Downtown Arts decided to question our potential City Council members and our potential might-be Mayors and discover their views on the subject of the Arts and Downtown. Out of the twenty candidates running for either Mayor, Place 2 City Council, or Place 6 City Council, we randomly selected twelve candidates to whom we asked (or, at least, tried to ask) these three questions:
Do you have any ideas on what the City Council can do (if anything) to enhance the relationship between public art, downtown revitalism (especially in East downtown) and tourism?
What is your position on a new performing arts facility for Austin, and/or do you have any ideas on how to renovate Palmer auditorium?
Do you have any definite ideas on how the City Council could act to help enhance or bolster the issues of cultural diversity with public arts funding in Austin?
We sent our feelers out at the beginning of the week and gave them until Friday, April 18th. Five days. Not a long deadline, but we all know that you shouldn't give politicians too much time to think, for who knows what might happen. Out of those twelve candidates, we received one response to the questions, four phone messages (followed by an eternal game of phone tag -- a game which, when playing against a politician, you are most certain to lose), a returned e-mail message because the candidate's campaign headquarters supplied us with the wrong e-mail address, and nothing else. No other faxes or e-mail responses. Not even a promotional photograph. Here in the age of information, we received one answer to our questions.
That was from Eric Samson, who is running against Eric Mitchell and Willie Clyde Lewis for Place 6 on the City Council. To top it all, when I spoke to the gentleman on the phone, the only one to answer our three simple questions, I accidentally called him Eric Lee Swanson. "Let me guess. You must be calling from the Tarrytown Gazette." After he spelled his name for me, slowly and in a loud and clear voice, I asked him our questions.
"First of all, I think that if we were to establish a clearing house for artists and performers or provide vacant properties for venues in the East Austin/ Downtown area, it would open up a lot of opportunity to enhance the relationships between Downtown and the Arts. Also, if we opened up city properties without the required deposits and supervisory fees, it would allow more venues and would revitalize East Austin and Downtown Austin. Plus, there's the Carver Center in East Austin which could be renovated into an East Austin Performing Arts Center. There are really a lot of things the City Council can do to improve the relationships between Art and Downtown and tourism. About renovating Palmer... Renovating Palmer at first seemed to me to be nightmarish, but there are quite a few people who are rooted in the idea of Palmer as a more expediant option. But there are other options as well. We do need a solution, with the imminent loss of Bass Concert Hall. One option is to build, along with the new Museum of Art, a small or large Performing Arts Center, but one way or another, we need something down there. As for your third question, first of all, remove the $200,000 cap in Austin for funding. There is a lot of bad accounting and bad politics going on right now that also affect the spread of funds. I think that if we set aside funds for more street festivals, like our Pecan Street Festival, something downtown, in East Austin, that will draw people into East Austin, that will greatly help increase the interest in diversity in arts. Right now, people have no reason to go into East Austin and they have no idea what's out there. If we can draw them into East Austin and show them what East Austin has to offer, culturally and artistically, with street festivals and such, then we can diversify Austin's art community and maybe acquire more funding for less supported art groups."
And there you have it. Our answer. I must admit, it's less than desired, but almost more than I hoped for. And, for those interested, I did speak to Max Nofziger's secretary and Max himself, a few campaign aides, someone's child, and Gus Garcia. Only none of them had any answers. If you want to see a list of the City Council and Mayoral candidates, complete with addresses and phone numbers, to maybe ask them our questions yourself or ask your own questions, you can either call the City Clerk's office and they can fax you a copy, or if you don't have a fax machine but are cyber-connected, you can look up the list on the City Council web page at <www.ci.austin.tx.us/> which will direct you to the Council and Mayorial candidates, and if you have neither fax nor internet capabilities, you can simply drive or ride your bike or walk to City Hall at 124 West 8th Street, and they can hand you the list. If you do happen to talk to any of the candidates before, during or after the election, tell them we here at Austin Downtown Arts and DiverseArts give them a hearty hi-ho.
[Editor's note: Manuel Zuniga's office responded to our questions after the editorial deadline and was not able to be included.]
Musical Hero Returns to Austin by Gary Blanchard
Just before Van Cliburn won the first Tchaikovsky competition in 1958, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in the protracted, tiresome endgame of World War II: the Cold War. Only the year before, the Russians had successfully lobbed the first artificial satellite into Earth orbit, and Americans instinctively knew what to expect after a competitor had gained such a leading technological edge.
The national mood vis a vis the Russians was a grim determination to come from behind (later culminating in the Apollo program), and progress was measured in millimeters. The stage thus was set for Van Cliburn's unexpected triumph in a cultural arena: The gangling boy from Texas, who, Galahad-like, conquered the formidable official cultural apparatus of the only competing world order, Soviet Russia.
In retrospect it seems easy to see how Cliburn's musical powers were destined to prevail: his ability to transmute the most intractable material into spun gold; the lushness, natural elegance, and poise of his playing set him apart from the competition to such an exten that one of the judges, Svjatoslav Richter, having been instructed to grade each contestant rigorously on a scale of one to 10, gave Cliburn straight 100s and the others straight zeros.
Cliburn's victory was seized upon by the American public in a big way. Upon his return to the United States, he was given the accolade of a ticker-tape parade, an honor usually reserved for military heroes. He had demonstrated that Americans were not all nyekulturniks -- people debased and without culture -- and that the best America had to offer was very good indeed; as good as anything the Russian had, in fact.
Van Cliburn will perform with the Austin Symphony on May 24, 8pm, at UT's Bass Concert Hall. Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Major, Op. 73 "Emperor" and MacDowell's Piano Concerto No.2 in D Minor, Op. 23 are on the program. Austin Symphony Assistant Conductor Timothy Muffit will conduct the performance. Call (512) 476-6064 for more information.
Van Cliburn's appearance in Austin brings to mind the best aspect of this unimaginably ominous competitive spiral that was the Cold War. For a moment, the combatants in this protracted stalemate called a short truce, a common ground emerged, and, at least for a few minutes, the combatants were able to set aside their temporary differences and dwell on lasting things like the glory of music. Cliburn's image at the piano recreates this moment perfectly; tall and aristocratic, with his movements creating the perfect golden sound. His playing and demeanor are the living extension of the European romantic tradition into the 20th Century world of consumate technicians: the triumph of music over daily and humiliating reality.
Up All Night by Harold McMillan
Damn! that was a good show. If you missed the April 24th Kenny Garrett Concert at the State Theater, you missed one of the few chances we Austin folks get to see up-close/hear live-and-in-person the hard edge of '90s neo-bop-funky jazz played by the guys who define exactly where the form is right now. Jeff "Tain" Watts played Philip Marshall's (local drummer boy) vintage Gretch drums at the State Theater, on Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. Kenny Kirkland's priceless hands, knowing nuance, soul of a true modern jazzman played Karen Kurkyndahl's (local real estate saleswoman/chaunteus) piano. I got to pick up bassist Nat Reeves at the airport. Kenny Garrett rode in Brad Andrews' cool and clean Caddy. Pam Hart and Elias Haslanger agreed to open on short notice. Jay Trachtenburg told you you needed to see/hear this show. Michael Point and Christopher Gray recommended that you go to this show...So did Jody Denberg, Doc Jones, Jazz Dave and Roger Brown. KOOP and KVRX gave away tickets on the air (others, too). Elizabeth and I put flyers on your windshields to tell about the show. Marlo, Doug, and Court called you and sent you invitations and press releases. AusTix gave you a good pre-sale price to come to the show. And Cedar Street let you in for free, with your Kenny Garrett ticket stub.
And in something short of two and one-half weeks we put together, arguably, one of the best jazz shows to come through Austin this year. It was billed as a fundraiser for the Clarksville Jazz Fest. And know what? It was a great time. Too bad you missed it. But, there will be more.
Like it said, it was billed as a fundraiser for our Jazz Fest. It didn't really work as that, but the show was an overwhelming success. What we did with the Kenny Garrett Concert was produce a jazz consciousness-raiser. And that is really the point of most of our programming. We (DiverseArts) face the challenge, especially with our jazz programs, of showcasing the legends and future legends of a genre of music that has yet to be understood or truely appreciated by a mass audience in America -- not to even mention here in Austin. What we did was bring to the State Theater four of the world's most accomplished jazz musicians. The audience was one full of knowledgeable jazzheads, musicians, young folks who wanted a taste of "big city jazz," and old folks who are interested in the future of jazz. And some folks were simply adventurous enough to check that action to see what the buzz was all about. A successful show. I was well pleased and happy about the outcome.
For DiverseArts, as a presenting organization and producer of Austin's Jazz Fest, each time we try something like this we learn a little more about the taste and temperment of the listening public here. We reaffirmed that the State Theater is a lovely hall in which to produce and listen to a good jazz concert. There are local jazz players who are not threatened because of our efforts to bring the influence of the larger jazz world to Austin. The better news this time out is that we reafirmed that there is a growing Austin audience out there for world-class touring jazz acts. There are harder lessons learned from this show as well, but the positive aspects far outweigh that stuff. Yes, money spent and lost comes into the conversation. But really, if you are working on something that addresses long-term goals, you gotta invest in the notion for it to become reality. And sometimes we just gotta prove to folks that we are ready to move, as a unified community, toward cooperation and broad partnerships in strengthening the expanding core (the relationships) of the Austin jazz community.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not announcing the death of the "old Austin jazz establishment." What I am pointing out (and promoting) is an opening of the ranks here. The coming new century will not find Austin's jazz players marching to the beat of the same old drummer or two. We old guys have to face the fact that the kids are growing up and Austin is really just now, for the first time, poised to have a truly inter-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-sub-genre-driven jazz scene. The days of the same guys playing the same standards on different nights at the same clubs is nearing its end. To be sure, those days are not gone yet, but they are numbered. And that shouldn't threaten the old heads. That should not bother the folks who have for years had a tight grip on what goes in the jazz scene here. Good work pays off in a variety of way. And sometimes one result is having to make room for new players who do it differently than its been done in the past.
If the scene is to florish, grow, open up, there has to be influence from the outside, more cross polination of players, styles, venus and ideas. We need to accommodate and nurture folks like (and as different as) Pam Hart and Tina Marsh, East Babylon and Tony Campise, Son Yuma and Eric Johnnson, Hot Buttered Rhythm and Lucky Strikes, Martin Banks and Bob Meyer, James Polk and Heather Bennett. And on some gigs, there might even need to be a place on the stage for an acid-jazz-spinnin' DJ.
The thing we learned (re-affirmed) with the Kenny Garrett Show is that there are some folks out there hungry for world-class jazz in Austin. And, I really believe, if there is more of it around, that audience will grow. In order to make Austin a regular stop for these folks, however, the community must come together and do the teamwork thing.
Happily, we found that, given a few phone calls and requests for help, the Austin jazz scene will come together for the good of the community. A new jazz scene paradigm just might be in the making.
Verities by Sandra Beckmeier
Cats bite when they need affection. They grab with their front legs, scratch with their hind feet, take a tiny chunk of skin into their teeth. I let my cat gnaw on me. It doesn't hurt much. Sooner or later he always gives up, rolls over, and takes a nap. I've learned a lot about myself by paying attention to the needs of my cat. I feel like I've lived my life up until now through the eyes of an observer. Today I have vision and clarity. Looking back I see that pain in any form is unnecessary weight on the soul.
I wrote a story in December, maybe one of you read it. I have a lot of disgust for the mental health system, so I've been studying. I don't condemn it for the assistance it can provide, but the religion it has become. Self-discovery is part of growing up. I saw myself as a child because I was living my life through the same abusive cycles, and so I went to psychology looking for freedom. With the aid of a therapist a light was shined for me on an eating disorder -- self-punishment for a deeper yet unrealized pain. My soul began to rot so I began to pray. I studied endlessly and obsessively, recognizing through every damn book I read the control that had taken over my mind. All I wanted then was to get well, to get out of the psychological hellhole, and become human. I began to study religion because I felt like I was only talking to myself as I prayed. I'll quote the title of an old song I love that a friend of mine wrote, "love is the answer."
Maybe it's what momma stole, then stabbed into my mind. Maybe it's what daddy beat out of momma, and the scar he left when he broke my heart. Maybe it was my grandparents decision to ignore everything that made isolation seem like safety for so long. Who the hell knows why I always starved myself, feared human beings, and never saw beauty in the mirror. Now I understnad what real freedom of the mind, body, and soul are all about.
It's difficult to get through the rough spots on this journey I call life. It's rare I could go out and truly enjoy myself because I was always preoccupied and trying to make sense of things. You can call it evil, darkness, many words to describe what is essentially dissolved through the act of forgiveness. I never understood what love is all about until recently. I'm always amazed where I find love. The strangest of places. My definitions are unusual I suppose because love is big and small. I met a street hustler on 11th Street who taught me about bitterness. The knowledge he gave to me was an act of love as we shared on a walk through Africa.
One day I was driving to work and love found me, via the radio. I began to daydream for several weeks, I suppose I needed to leave the place I'd fallen into. So I left reality for a while, gave into the fear and control over remaining "sane" -- I floated in thought, and found clarity in the face as I believe. I accepted everything as it is, and gave away what didn't belong to me. Through the experience I received more than I ever imagined in return -- a sense of purpose, and a reason to believe in destiny.
I am old-fashioned, but evolving perspectives make that a contradiction. I believe in spiritual formulas for healing. The nature of any kind of mental discomfort is a cry from the soul to heal. If we ignore our needs, they consume us. If we turn our backs on our problems they become a part of us. If we let problems go on too long we create anger inside ourselves and become menaces to society. I understand how hard it is to give everything over to God, most of us at some time in our lives have been penetrated by judgement. The practice is in trusting and believing.
Psychology sterilizes love and enslaves consumers. It becomes a source of dependence. My ears have been pricked to the mental health system for years. My aunt was very ill. My parents both mentally gone. I guess it was only natural that I grew up with my own set of issues. Stretching beyond the situation in my family I see the bigger picture -- I see an instigator of violence in America. One kind of fear creates another. If I fear you, you're gonna fear me. If I feared enough I'd buy a gun. If I feared even more, I'd use it.
Violence in the mind ruins the beauty in our environments. It crushes love and understanding. It violates peace and harmony. It is a destroyer of hope. When minds have been violated by endless oppression -- whether it be spiritual, sexual, prejudicial, or judicial -- a kind of predator takes over the mind. It is in coming to terms with who we are in the present moment that makes change happen externally.
My journey worth sharing has been as a wild child -- but I can feel myself slowing down a little. It's probably just this moment. I guess I'm tired. How many of you radio children had to keep music a secret when you were young? For the sake of understanding myself and the spiritual elements of all music, not just certain flavors, I stand firmly in the understanding of what it means to be "in tune."
It should be an individual decision, yet in my opinion it is as much about personal responsibility as, say, voting is, for a person to get themself in check. For me it had to be a natural progression. It's important to me to feel like a woman, but more importantly to feel like a human being. Everybody has a road that looks different, and overcoming fear is a natural part of the climb. The question I'll pose to you, the reader, is what do you fear most in other people? Chances are you fear yourself. I'm closing a big chapter in my life, heading in a brighter direction with what is greatfully a clearer perspective for the rest. Slide down, look up, express yourself. And don't forget to give your neighbor a break.